Despite Rapid Growth, Retail Clinic Use Remains Modest

Share of American Families Using a Retail Clinic Nearly Tripled Between 2007 and 2010; Convenience Most Often Cited as Reason for Using a Retail Clinic

News Release
Nov. 7, 2013

Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or

WASHINGTON , DC—The proportion of American families using a retail clinic in the previous year nearly tripled between 2007 and 2010 from 1 percent of U.S. families in 2007 to 3 percent in 2010, according to a national study released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

In 2010, an estimated 4.1 million American families reported using retail clinics in the previous 12 months, compared to 1.7 million families in 2007, according to findings from HSC’s 2010 Health Tracking Household Survey, a nationally representative survey funded by RWJF with information on 17,000 people.

When asked why they chose retail clinics over other care settings, most clinic users cited convenience factors, such as extended operating hours, walk-in visits and a convenient location, the study found. However, uninsured and low-income families were much more likely to cite lower cost and lack of a usual source of care as reasons for choosing retail clinics.

With insurance expansions under national health reform expected to pressure primary care capacity in many communities, retail clinics may play a larger role in providing basic preventive and primary care services. Some retail clinics also are expanding their scope to encompass services like chronic condition management.

“It’s an open question whether retail clinics will grow beyond their current limited role in the health care delivery system and finally emerge as the widespread ‘disruptive innovation’ that some have long predicted,” said HSC Senior Researcher Ha T. Tu., M.P.A., coauthor of the study with Ellyn R. Boukus, M.A., an HSC research analyst.

The study’s findings are detailed in a new HSC Research Brief—Despite Rapid Growth, Retail Clinic Use Remains Modestavailable here.

Other key findings include:

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The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation's changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research.